NEW YORK–The Justice Department and Madison Square Garden reached an agreement in early April that forced the arena to move a cigarette advertisement out of the view of television cameras.
The agreement was the result of the Justice Department’s first lawsuit filed to enforce the 1971 Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which banned televising cigarette advertisements.
In the suit, filed in federal district court in New York City the same day as the consent decree, Justice officials accused Madison Square Garden of trying to circumvent the law “by displaying a large Marlboro cigarette sign directly in front of the scorers’ table during televised Knicks games.”
The agreement prohibits the placement of cigarette signs near the court, or along walkways to locker rooms or anywhere else “regularly in a camera’s focus” during televised events. The agreement also forbids the arena from charging more money to place cigarette advertisements in locations that might be more likely to be seen on a broadcast.
Garden officials admitted no wrong-doing, and called the agreement a “formality,” because the arena already had moved the sign in November.
Justice Department officials said the agreement would serve as a model for dealing with other arenas. Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney in New York City warned that “operators of entertainment and sports arenas should be aware of their responsibilities under the law.”
Within a week of the announcement, officials at New York’s Shea Stadium announced they would move a Marlboro sign to a less-visible position. The sign had been located under the large video screen in left-center field, according to the New York Times. (U.S. v. Madison Square Garden, L.P.)
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